Opposition launches 24-hour filibuster of Litzman bill

The bill states that a prime minister holding a portfolio for which there is a deputy minister can choose to give that deputy minister ministerial authority.

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January 10, 2018 13:00
2 minute read.
Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman at the Knesset plenum discussing goverment allowances for the handic

Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman at the Knesset plenum discussing goverment allowances for the disabled, September 18, 2017.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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The Knesset prepared for another all-nighter Wednesday, with the opposition filibustering a bill meant to allow United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman to function as health minister while being a deputy minister.

All-night votes have become a weekly event in the Knesset of late, with the opposition keeping the coalition up through the night with long hours of speeches and many proposed changes to bills to vote on. Wednesday’s expected overnight plenum meeting will be the second this week.

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The bill was proposed as part of a compromise package between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties. The agreement came after Litzman resigned from the Health Ministry so as not to have ministerial responsibility for violations of Shabbat, in this case government-approved railway work.

Litzman was deputy health minister when the government was sworn in, in 2015, but Yesh Atid petitioned the High Court against the idea of a deputy minister with ministerial authority. The court took Yesh Atid’s side, and Litzman became a minister, a historic moment for UTJ, the Ashkenazi-Haredi bloc.

Now, a new law is needed order to return to the previous situation. The bill states that a prime minister holding a portfolio for which there is a deputy minister can choose to give that deputy minister ministerial authority.

The bill could also apply to Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, but she said she does not currently plan to ask for more power.

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said in the meeting in which the bill was authorized that “it improves the situation in the sense that it will give more authority to the Deputy Health Minister, which is very important.”

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Yesh Atid MK Yael German, who was health minister in the previous government, said that Litzman was “selling Shabbat for lentil soup and the government went with it,” a Biblical reference to Esau who gave Jacob his birthright in exchange for such a dish. She called it cynical for Litzman to say he doesn’t want to be part of a government that violates the Sabbath, but will be a deputy minister with ministerial authority.

“The terrible anomaly in which we give authority without responsibility shouldn’t exist in our electoral system,” German argued. “This government is not ashamed at its cynicism, but it should be, that it’s selling itself to 5% of the Knesset...Is this democracy, that 5% decide for 95%?”

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